PHOENIX — The Suns had to be experiencing some serious déjà vu Tuesday night after nearly repeating the mistakes they made in Denver. The Suns blew a 17-point lead in a loss to the Nuggets and then nearly blew a 20-point lead against the San Antonio Spurs before holding on for a 116-104 win over their biggest rival.
The Suns once again held onto to the title of the NBA’s only team still undefeated at home, as they are now 9-0 in US Airways Center. The win extended the Suns’ home winning streak to 18, dating back to last season. The streak now includes 13 straight against Western Conference teams.
Snapping the Spurs’ three-game winning streak in the series, the Suns clicked in all the right ways in a game that many thought could be a disaster. After allowing the Spurs to come within one just minutes into the fourth quarter, the Suns surged back, taking a 10-point lead with just over six minutes to play.
“That was a good win,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “It’s a real solid win against a real solid team.”
The biggest story of the game was the emergence of Goran Dragic, who played the best game of his career in a contest in which the Suns needed him to play extended minutes. He spent over 25 minutes on the floor because Jason Richardson (22, minutes, 1-for-7 shooting) was limited by his sprained right hand.
With 6:07 on the clock, Dragic hit a key three-pointer to put the Suns up 103-93. Dragic was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the second quarter and 4-for-5 in the game to finish with a career-high 18 points.
“We worked a lot on my shot and my dribbling,” Dragic said. “After practice I stayed about 30 minutes and I came in the afternoon for shooting.”
An Amare Stoudemire steal from Tim Duncan with three minutes to play and an ensuing full court drive from Dragic put the Suns up 110-97, and they never looked back.
“It’s a lot of fun to see him playing well,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said of Dragic. “He made some big plays in the fourth quarter, so it was exciting to see him do that.”
But the key in this one may have been one of the two two-time MVPs on the floor, and contrary to the recent norms, it wasn’t Duncan. Nash finished with 25 points and 13 assists, keeping alive the Suns’ undefeated record when Nash totals 10 or more assists.
Rather than just scoring as he has in recent games, Nash was able to pull the strings of the offense as well, getting everyone involved. Tony Parker, who finished with 15 points, defended Nash most of the night and wasn’t able to keep up. Nash frequently blew by Parker to get inside and score or dish to a waiting Stoudemire.
“It was one of those nights for (Nash),” Parker said. “When you are rolling and feeling good and everything you do is working — I know how those nights are.”
With the crowd chanting M-V-P, Nash dished to Jared Dudley, who hit a three-pointer with 51 seconds left in the game. Moments later Dudley dished to Grant Hill for another three to put an emphatic exclamation mark on an important home game.
Stoudemire owned the paint on offense despite Duncan’s season-high 34 points and 14 rebounds. STAT finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and more monster dunks than anyone could keep track of.
“I wanted to attack and bring that energy that we needed on the court,” Stoudemire said. “I think we all connected and brought great energy, played smart and got the win.”
Before the game, all anyone (myself included) seemed to be talking about was needing to limit Duncan. Well, the Suns didn’t. Duncan had his best game of the season, which isn’t surprising as he is usually very good against the Suns. But it didn’t matter because the Suns did everything else right.
“Amare did a really good job on Tim,” Gentry said. “He’s going to get his baskets, and you just have to try to limit him as much as you can.”
Despite the third-quarter lapse and blown lead, the Suns were doing everything they needed to do on both ends of the floor.
“I thought we did a good job just hanging in there and we won the game with our defense, really,” Gentry said.
We’ll assume he wasn’t talking about the third-quarter defense. Gentry said the Suns have been coming out slow in the third quarter and need to adjust in order to maintain leads.
“We’ve got to do a littler better job coming out in the third quarter,” Gentry said. “We got a little bold with some of the things we tried to do and that got us in trouble. But when you play against Denver and you play against San Antonio, it’s not going to be a 25-point game.”
Possibly the most important thing the Suns did right was something they’ve done most of the season –shoot well from three-point land. The Spurs had been holding teams under 40 percent from deep, but the Suns made it rain, hitting 11-of-18 three-pointers (61.1 percent) behind the arc.
“It was just one of those games,” Parker said. “We didn’t play well and they shot the ball well. Tonight we played against a very good Phoenix team.”
The Suns’ offense was clearly clicking despite the general absence of Richardson, who contributed just three points. The 116 total was the most the Suns have scored against the Spurs in a regulation game since January 1993.
The Suns shot 51.6 percent from the field against San Antonio and are now shooting 52.2 percent in their last three games. In the previous five-game stretch, the Suns shot and an anemic 43.5 percent.
- Louis Amundson left the game in the third quarter after suffering a mild ankle sprain. His status for Portland hasn’t been determined. In Tuesday’s win over the Spurs, Amundson had four points and four rebounds, all offensive.
- Nash recorded his fourth straight 20-point game, his longest streak since March 28-April 3.
- Frequent Suns-killer Roger Mason recorded a season-high 19 points, including 5-of-8 shooting from three.